Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 1 Year 3 Weeks Old

This was a thrilling week for me! I finally became totally committed and highly motivated to make my own body a top priority over all things. When my knee began going out on me several times a day and x-rays showed that I might need knee surgery to stabilize the knee, physical therapy became my most favorite thing. I also returned to Pilates which strengthens and stabilizes the whole body. So once again Sagan is my greatest teacher and motivator. Having a great guide dog is not useful if I am in no shape to walk with him.

When our trainer came last Thursday, I felt like my knee was strong enough to walk outside with Sagan. I was on cloud nine because we did so well together. We stayed very close to home but that was good enough for me. We practiced impulse control going out the front door. He has a tendency to bound out which obviously is not safe. I began using the “forward” command along with the “steady” command. I showed him what was expected and he caught on very quickly. Of course, it needs to be practiced often in order to get it ingrained. Once we could get in and out of the door gracefully, we began walking down the front walkway of my house. This is an area where he often becomes activated to whatever is going on out in the world. We waited for him to relax and then I gave him the “forward” command and off we went. After a few tries, he actually modulated his pace to mine. When Stu or the trainer walk with him, they go much faster than I do so it was important to know that he slows down for me. I felt like crying when I realized that he was doing his best to walk at my speed. We practiced left and right turns, walking straight to the curb, and finding the front door on command. He was great! I really feel like now that Sagan is going to work out as a guide dog. There is a huge amount of work to do yet but he is well on his way.

The two pictures above show Mel, Susie the trainer, and Sagan outside on the front walkway.

Relaxation is the word of the week. We decided to put a crate in the car for him and his first experience was less than wonderful. All last week we have been having car parties. I take a bone or something wonderful for him to chew, a book, and a beverage for me out to the car while it is in the garage and we sit together and relax. This week we are going to pull it out of the garage and maybe take a short trip. The crate is covered so he can’t see all the lovely dogs and trucks going by. We plan to take him to the groundbreaking ceremonies for Rachel Carson EcoVillage in a few weeks and we want a  peaceful trip.

I also taught Sagan the command “relax”. I shaped it by treating him whenever he put his head down while in the down position. If he was on the couch with me and his head went onto my lap, I said, “Yes!” and gave him a treat. He figured out very quickly that head down means a treat. Then I added the cue word “relax”. Then, I progressed to just saying “relax” and treating him when his head went down. Now I am working on duration. My goal is for him to hear the cue and actually relax under a table or wherever I want him to. Training such a smart dog is so rewarding.

The picture above shows Mel and Sagan on the couch. Mel is teaching Sagan the "relax" command and Sagan is resting his head on Mel's leg.

Rachel Carson EcoVillage will be our new home hopefully by the end of this year. My goal is to have Sagan working for me by then. Here is the link to the ecovillage in case you want to check it out yourself. There are a few units left for sale.

<< Go back to the previous page